The same process that leads to an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, premature aging and other conditions, surprise, surprise, also affects brain health and links directly to Alzheimer’s. “This is the key reason why people have long-term brain health issues but also short-term issues,” says Dr Briffa. “It can upset the chemistry of the brain in a way that causes anything from brain fog to depression.”
Inflammation is the result of an immune system that has become permanently switched on, and can sometimes lead the body to attack its own tissue as an auto-immune condition.
How do you know if your body is in an inflammatory state? “If you have pain, you’re more likely to have inflammation,” says Dr Amen. “If your gut is not right, you’re more likely to have inflammation. If you don’t eat fish or have low omega-3 fatty acids, you’re more likely to have inflammation. If you eat a lot of processed foods, you’re more likely to have inflammation.”
There are also simple blood tests that your GP can carry out to check markers for inflammation, says Dr Bredesen. Ask for your high sensitivity C-reactive Protein (HS-CRP) to be tested. Ideally, says Dr Bredesen, it would be less than 0.9mg/dl. Routine blood tests usually include the ratio of albumin to globulin (A/G ratio), another measure of inflammation, which is best, he says, if below 1.8. Other good measures are the ratio of inflammatory omega-6 to omega-3s in your red blood cells, which he advises should be less than 3 but above 0.5.
If you find your inflammatory markers are higher than you would like, you may want to clean up your diet — reducing sugar, reducing simple carbs that are high GI, such as breads, pasta, flour-based products, processed foods, alcohol and bad fats including trans fats. Replace with anti-inflammatory foods such as green, leafy veg, brassicas and beetroot. Fish oils are hugely helpful. Aim for 1g daily of EPA from fish oil, krill or algae, suggests Dr Bredesen. And brew teas or use spices and herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and thyme as often as possible. Tackle stress, and check your oral hygiene and gum health. If, when you retest, your markers are still high, then ask your doctor to delve a little deeper to check for any chronic infections, for example.